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Old Truronian Dr Anna Rood CO13 (nee Caklais) attended Truro School from 2006-2011 and is now a Researcher at Imperial College London. As a result of her refining PhD research, her first paper has gained national media attention for its important work in the field of geology.
In an earthquake zone near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Southern California is a rock, precariously balanced in place for 21,000 years. The disturbance needed to unsettle such blocks is significant, which led to Anna wondering how the stones could be used to understand the history of earthquakes and why such enormous stones have yet to be unsettled from their positions.
“The turn of phrase we’re trying to coin is that these precariously balanced rocks, or PBRs, are an ‘inverse seismometer. A normal seismometer records an event that has happened, whereas our PBR (precariously balanced rock) is still standing there, and so it records an earthquake that hasn’t happened. Specifically, a large earthquake,” she told BBC News.
By analysing the ages of unstable rocks and working out just how big of an earthquake would topple them, Anna and her colleagues have built a more precise picture of past earthquake behaviour in the region—and therefore what could happen in the future.
Previous research on earthquake hazards has focused on these rocks, but this is the first study of its kind to dramatically refine an entire hazard assessment and will be a case study for how to approach the use of fragile geologic features.
Mark Vanstone taught Anna geology and still works at the school. He said: “It’s fantastic to see Anna continuing to work with the same passion for geology that she showed at GCSE, building on her knowledge of Cornwall’s fantastic geology to make an important contribution to our understanding of earthquake hazards near the most famous plate boundary in the world. One of my greatest joys is to be contacted by former students who are passionate about my subject and want to share that passion with others.”